FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The Tiger Woods of the past participated in every tournament that expected to win. An older, wiser Woods returned from his fourth back operation last year with tempered expectations.
As he explained Tuesday: "There are more days that I feel older than I do younger."
After Woods' victory last month at the Masters, which he secured less than two years after undergoing a spinal fusion, the oddsmakers and almost everyone else expected him to fight in his next start, the PGA Championship on Bethpage Black, where he won the 2002 United States Open for one of his 15 major titles.
Instead, Woods managed for the ninth time in his 76 big starts as a professional to move on to the weekend. He shot three par 73 on Friday to finish with a total of forty-five 145 with 36 holes, one stroke above the cutline – and 17 hits behind the leader, Brooks Koepka, with whom he was grouped
Six of Woods & # 39; s missed cuts in the majors have come since he underwent the first of his back procedures in 2014.
"I just wasn't moving the way I had to," Woods said. "That's how it will be. There will be days and weeks when it just won't work."
Woods, 43, entered the tournament rusty. This was only his seventh start in 2019. He missed a final-fit event in Charlotte, N.C., which he had previously won, citing mental fatigue from his Masters performance. And his preparation, once he arrived in New York, was curtailed by illness. Instead of playing the back nine in a practice round on Wednesday, he opted to rest.
Woods played the series nine out of six in his two league rounds.
"There is no reason why I can't get up to speed anymore," said Woods. "I have to feel better first."
He had previously announced his struggles in a pre-tournament press conference, in which he described "the fickle nature" of fusing his back.
"Slightly older and with the back as it is, there are many concerns," he said, "and when it comes to what I have to do to get ready and be ready to go, his the quick reversals sometimes a bit more difficult. "
Woods' usual routine, which he could complete in a few minutes in his youth, now takes a few hours. For the early Thursday morning in damp, cold weather, it was necessary to perform a predawn wake-up call.
With his second lap in the afternoon and in airy, humid conditions, Woods seemed away from his opening drive, which sailed left. He didn't land a ball in the tee fairway until the ninth hole and only hit three fairways for the round.
This, Woods warned, is his new normal. If he feels good, he can play very, very well, and if he is not, he may miss the cut.
"Some days I have more freedom of movement," said Woods. "Not some days. On some days I have more pain and sometimes not. There is more volatility."
Woods made 18 starts last season, which was six more than he had made together in the previous three years . His 2018 season culminated with a victory at the Tour Championship, his 80th PGA Tour title but his first since 2013. With his Masters title, Woods moved within a victory of Sam Thead's record of 82 PGA Tour titles.
It is hard to say when Woods will resume the pursuit of Snead. It will most likely be in two weeks at the Memorial Tournament, which is being organized by the 18-year-old big winner, Jack Nicklaus.
Woods is a five-fold winner of the tournament, but as he said, he is on unknown territory. He can't practice as long or as hard as before, and his playing availability depends on how his back is up.
Woods is experimenting to find a work-rest balance that gives him the best chance of succeeding when he does.
The next major is the United States Open, next month at Pebble Beach in Northern California, where Woods won the first of his three US Open titles.
"That will be the interesting part that is advancing," Woods said at the beginning of the week. "How much do I play and how much do I rest? I think I've done a lot of leg work and hard work, trying to find my game in the last year and a half.
" Now I think it's it only maintains, "he continued." I know I feel better when I'm fresh. The body does not respond as before, does not bounce so well, so I must be aware of that. "